Tag Archive: default

Oct 20 2013

The Doomsday Debt Ceiling

The last imbroglio over raising the debt ceiling may be over for the moment but the threat is still hanging on the horizon. Its use as a bargaining tool by the minority to circumvent laws they don’t like and elections they lost is an extremely dangerous tactic that effects not just the American economy but could bring down the global economy and irreparably harm the value of the dollar and America’s reputation of being a good investment. Even the financial and business sectors have called the debt ceiling toxic to economic health. The CEO of JP Morgan, Jamie Dimon, when asked about the consequences of not raising the debt ceiling responded, “you don’t want to know.” Martin Wolf, the chief economic commentator at The Financial Times called the debt ceiling law a “doomsday device” that should be repealed. In simple terms he explained why it is too dangerous to use:

The first is constitutional. In a recent article, Neil Buchanan of The George Washington University and Michael Dorf of Cornell (pdf) argue that a binding debt ceiling would create a “trilemma” for the president: “Ignore the debt ceiling and unilaterally issue new bonds, thus usurping Congress’s borrowing power; unilaterally raise taxes, thus usurping Congress’s taxing power; or unilaterally cut spending, thus usurping Congress’s spending power.” Thus, a binding debt ceiling would force the president to violate his obligation to “take care that the laws be faithfully executed”. The authors conclude that the president should choose the “least unconstitutional” course and ignore the debt ceiling. But, inevitably, whatever the president did would create a constitutional crisis. No responsible Congress would seek to put the president in that position.

The second reason why the debt ceiling is so dangerous is that the administration could not obey it in a non-destructive way. At some point between October 17 and the end of the month, the administration would lack the money to pay its bills. All choices would be dire.

Mr. Wolf explains that the claims of “prioritisation” by the Treasury Department to pick and choose which bills to pay would still be a default (pdf). Mostly, it is not possible since Treasury uses two different computer systems to pay its foreign and domestic bills. The states that the economics effect of choosing which to pay and which to allow to default would effect the Treasury bonds aming them a risky investment. The International Monetary Fund and World Bank heads meeting in Washington last week issued warnings of the grave dangers to the global economy.

In an interview with Bill Moyers’, Mr. Wolf gives his analysis of the debt ceiling crisis.



Transcript can be read here

Oct 17 2013

Congressional Game of Chicken: Hostages Get A Reprieve

President Barack Obama signed the bill early Thursday morning that reopens the government and raises the debt ceiling, officially ending the 16-day shutdown, the White House said.

CNN Breaking News

If anyone thinks that the latest budget crisis is over, or that there was a victory, they are living in the bubble of a fool’s paradise.

This has cost the economy billions, hurt countless individuals in many ways for a deal that merely kicks the can down the road. Come January, unless a long term budget deal is passed, another continuing resolution (CR) will be needed. February is even more ominous when again the US hits its borrowing limit.

Obama should have stood his ground last year when he caved and gave the Republicans the sequester which is far more damaging to the economy than the ACA. Look what happened to the Republican brand. That could have been last year and the Democrats might have stood a better chance of increasing its majority in the Senate and gaining even more than 8 seats in the House.

There is no sense in rehashing what can’t be undone. The Democrats now need to deal with repairing the damage of the last 5 years continuing to hold firm on the budget, ending the sequester cuts for more reasonable spending that will benefit the majority of Americans and finally killing the biggest threat to the US and World economies, the debt ceiling cap.

Time to take the bullets out of the gun.

Oct 15 2013

Congressional Game of Chicken: Countdown to Default

Chris Hayes, the host of MSNBC’s All In, has the most concise and informative summary of the countdown to default.

Transcript can be read here

With days until default, a breakthrough?

With just three days to go until an unprecedented, possible U.S. default, there is some hope at this hour of a deal to re-open the government, raise the debt ceiling, and put an end to the shutdown. Rep. Chris Van Hollen and Rep. Scott Rigell join Chris Hayes to discuss inner dealings and where we’re at the road to re-open the government.

Oct 11 2013

Economic Populist: Will the White House Accept A Government Default, When It Doesn’t Have To?

Over at Wonkblog Ezra Klein, one of MSNBC’s favorite neoliberals, writes:

The problem with President Obama’s shutdown strategy



 

The political theory here is clear: Obama is trying to marshal public opinion against the GOP. If enough Republicans are getting angry calls from their constituents and seeing polls that look disastrous for their party, they’ll find a way to back down.

 

But it can backfire badly. Every second Obama stood at that podium made it a bit harder for the Republican Party to retreat. The more he repeats that this is their shutdown and they need to end it, the more their party suffers if they can’t find a way to prove the president wrong. Obama’s efforts to move public opinion toward  him also moves  Republican opinion against him.

 

… the White House is still pursuing a strategy that makes it harder for Boehner and the Republicans to back down. Their gamble is that the power of public opinion will overwhelm the power of presidential polarization. And if the Republican Party loses totally — loses in a way where they can’t tell themselves it was a win — that’ll be the end of these tactics.

The problem with this kind of brinksmanship tactics is that they may lead to an economic collapse ~ and given Europe’s ongoing problems with the scourge of harsh austerity policies in the context of a monetary system built broken, that might be a worldwide economic collapse.

Now, the threat of the economic collapse does not come from the Government Shutdown, it comes from the risk of default on the government debt, due to the US Treasury running out of juggling options before it needs to sell a new issue of Treasury bonds to avoid a default on payment of government obligations.

And the puzzling point is that the Administration insists that the risk of default is real, even though the Administration itself can take the threat of default off the table.

Oct 11 2013

Congressional Game of Chicken: Warnings on Default

There are a few fools in the House and Senate who don’t understand the consequences of the US defaulting on its debt payments. Flirting with default is not an option to solve a budget impasse. It’s a recipe for global financial disaster.

The right’s antics could cause a Depression: The terrifying default aftermath

by David Dayen, Salon

Normally with a financial crisis, there’s at least agreement on the need for a response. Not with these lunatics

The biggest threat from the twin calamities of the government shutdown and the debt limit breach is not actually the real-world effect; it’s what happens the next day, and the day after that. In other words, the most frightening thing about default, which is much more problematic than the shutdown, is what happens afterward. [..]

And all of these outcomes pale in comparison to what would happen if the government defaulted on any of its debts. Put the misguided statements of debt limit denialist Republicans aside. Based on current cash on hand at the Treasury Department, roughly 32 percent of the funds owed (pdf) between Oct. 18 and Nov. 15 would have to go unpaid. That’s a massive reduction in federal spending, and would cause a significant hit to Gross Domestic Product. Prioritization of payments, which may be unconstitutional, would certainly be a logistical nightmare, forcing Treasury to rewire its payment system (pdf) and pick and choose between up to 100 million monthly invoices.

If one of the missed payments is to a holder of U.S. debt, then you have a default event that could cause credit markets to freeze, the U.S. dollar to plummet, and financial institutions to struggle to secure short-term lending on which they rely. With the dollar and the U.S. Treasury bond serving as a benchmark for world markets, Businessweek says that the resulting global apocalypse would dwarf the implosion of Lehman Brothers that precipitated the 2008 financial crisis. And it would injure the perceived stability of U.S. debt maybe forever, raising our borrowing rates as investors decide a country that threatens to default for no good reason isn’t worth putting their money into. [..]

Armed with the knowledge that Congress won’t meaningfully help recover the economy, the White House needs to think very hard about forsaking the various options they could use to try and avert a debt default. It’s not just that the alternative is a disaster; it’s a prolonged disaster.

IMF piles pressure on US to reconcile differences and prevent debt default

by Larry Elliot and Jill Treanor, The Guardian

Shares and oil prices rise in hope of six-week extension as OECD warns US deadlock threatens world economy

The International Monetary Fund and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development both issued sharply worded warnings to Republicans and Democrats amid signs that America’s Asian creditors were becoming alarmed at the potential consequences of the impasse. [..]

Speculation about a deal emerged after Jack Lew, the US Treasury secretary said there would be chaos if the US defaulted – a message rammed home by the IMF’s Christine Lagarde and the OECD’s secretary general Angel GurrĂ­a.

Lagarde, the IMF’s managing director, said there would be very dangerous consequences for the US economy and very dangerous consequences outside the US economy if the default was not prevented.

She distanced herself from the infighting in Washington, noting: “The IMF does not make recommendations about how, politically, this can be resolved. We don’t take a political view. We just look at the economic consequences.

“When it affects the largest economy in the world, we are bound not only to look at the immediate domestic consequences but at what happens elsewhere, so that we can have a dialogue with our members to help them prepare. I hope we will be able to look back in a few weeks and say what a waste of time that was. But we have to look at the risks no matter how unlikely they are to materialise.”

On Wednesday, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren addressed the Senate warning that “this is no time to act out dangerous fantasies.

“We’re in this position for one reason, and one reason only: because Congress told the government to spend more money than we have – and Congress told the Treasury to run up our debt to pay for it – but now Congress is threatening to run out on the bill,” Senator Warren said.  “…The idea that we can somehow renege on our debts without paying a huge price is a fantasy-and a very dangerous one.” [..]

“This fight is about financial responsibility. Financially responsible people don’t charge thousands on their credit cards and then tear up the bill when it arrives. Financially responsible nations don’t either….If we default on our debt, we could bring on a worldwide recession-a recession that would pummel hard-working middle class people, people who lost homes and jobs and retirement savings and who are barely getting back on their feet,” said Warren.

Talks between White House and Republicans fail to end US shutdown

by Dan Roberts, The Guardian

Hopes that a deal might be in sight disappear as Barack Obama and House speaker John Boehner fail to see eye to eye

Discussions between Barack Obama and House speaker John Boehner broke up after 90 minutes with little apparent progress, although there was a marked change in tone on both sides that suggests a deal could still be close. [..]

But the Republicans refused to lift a separate threat to spending authorisation, which has led to a partial shutdown of the government since 1 October.

Obama had insisted on at least a temporary reprieve from both threats before he would agree to negotiate over Republican demands to repeal his healthcare reforms and cut spending.

On Thursday night, it appeared the president had chosen to stand his ground and may have initially refused to accept the partial climbdown from Boehner.

The game continues and no one is hitting the brake.

Oct 10 2013

Congressional Game of Chicken: The “Creators” of the “American Taliban” Losing Control

The business community is worried that they no longer have any influence over the Republican Party and place the blame for this current crisis squarely on the Tea Party faction of the House.

As the government shutdown grinds toward a potential debt default, some of the country’s most influential business executives have come to a conclusion all but unthinkable a few years ago: Their voices are carrying little weight with the House majority that their millions of dollars in campaign contributions helped build and sustain.

Their frustration has grown so intense in recent days that several trade association officials warned in interviews on Wednesday that they were considering helping wage primary campaigns against Republican lawmakers who had worked to engineer the political standoff in Washington.

Such an effort would thrust Washington’s traditionally cautious and pragmatic business lobby into open warfare with the Tea Party faction, which has grown in influence since the 2010 election and won a series of skirmishes with the Republican establishment in the last two years. [..]

In the two previous battles over the debt limit, many chief executives were reluctant to take sides, banding together in groups like Fix the Debt, which spent millions of dollars on a campaign urging Democrats and Republicans to work toward a “grand bargain” on the budget. But with shutdown a reality, and the clock ticking toward default, some of those same executives now place the blame squarely on conservative Republicans in the House.

The handful of Tea Party extremists, who believe that it’s OK to crash the world’s economy for their ideology, are out of control and unreasonable, not that they ever weren’t. But now the creators of this American version of Al Qaeda are scared. Yeah, they are scared. When you have the Koch brothers writing letters (pdf) to the US Senate insisting that the company was not involved in any ploy to shut down the government in efforts to defund Obamacare and Heritage Action, an arm of the Koch bothers’ Heritage Foundation, telling the House to raise the debt ceiling, you know they’re rattled.

Michael Needham, CEO of the powerful group Heritage Action, said that he opposed conditioning a crucial vote to increase the government’s borrowing authority on the group’s main goal: defunding Obamacare.

Under questioning at a breakfast with reporters, hosted by the Christian Science Monitor, Needham, a product of the Stanford Business School, conceded that failure to raise the debt ceiling would indeed disrupt the global economy. [..]

That could give Obama and House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) at least a smidgen of room to maneuver if and when they decide to strike an overall deal: the White House could get a “clean” debt ceiling vote (though of short duration) and the GOP could get a concession or two on the continuing resolution to fund the government’s annual spending.

Taking the cue, the reluctant leader of the pack, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA))and other members of the GOP leadership are meeting this afternoon at the White House to discuss a short term solution to raise the debt ceiling but not ending the government shutdown

Republican House leaders Thursday offered the president and Senate far less than they want in the ongoing financial standoff, presenting a six-week hike of the debt limit, but no deal to reopen the shuttered federal government.While the plan would grant six more weeks before the nation faces the chance of a default, it is contingent on the president agreeing to give up one of his key stances — that he will not sit down and negotiate until the government is reopened and the House stops using the $16.7 trillion debt limit as a lever to extract concessions. The limit is expected to be reached Oct. 17.

Nope, says the White House:

“The President has made clear that he will not pay a ransom for Congress doing its job and paying our bills,” an administration official said in a statement.

“It is better for economic certainty for Congress to take the threat of default off the table for as long as possible, which is why we support the Senate Democrats’ efforts to raise the debt limit for a year with no extraneous political strings attached,” the official continued, adding that Obama still want a straight up-or-down vote on a measure that the Senate passed to reopen government.

“Once Republicans in Congress act to remove the threat of default and end this harmful government shutdown, the President will be willing to negotiate on a broader budget agreement to create jobs, grow the economy, and put our fiscal house in order,” the official said. “While we are willing to look at any proposal Congress puts forward to end these manufactured crises, we will not allow a faction of the Republicans in the House to hold the economy hostage to its extraneous and extreme political demands. Congress needs to pass a clean debt limit increase and a funding bill to reopen the government.”

This doesn’t sound very promising. Boehner’s problem is that unless he violates the Hastert Rule and goes the House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and the Democrats for help, there is no way he can get a clean debt ceiling bill to the House floor. Boehner is betting the faith and credit of the US on Obama agreeing to his terms. The president is betting that Boehner will be forced to cave, abandon the Hastert Rule, and put a clean debt ceiling bill up for a vote.

Reid and Obama are also unsure whether Boehner can actually push his proposal through the House in the first place. They aren’t convinced hard-line conservatives and tea party aligned House Republicans won’t balk, forcing Boehner to turn to House Democrats for support. But any Democratic support would be tied to reopening the government.

Here’s the House GOP plan, and the thinking behind it: Republicans would vote to lift the debt ceiling until Nov. 22 – just before the Thanksgiving recess – while prohibiting the Treasury Department from using extraordinary measures to lift the borrowing limit. The legislation will also set up a negotiation over the borrowing cap and government funding. At this time, there are no spending cuts attached to the legislation. There is also no vote scheduled.

The game of chicken continues leaving not just the average American at great risk but putting the business community at loggerheads on who to fund to represent them in the long run. This game will have consequences. Question is for whom? And how dire?  

Sep 19 2013

The Congressional Game of Chicken: Debt Ceiling, Default, Crash the Global Economy

Here we go again. The feral children of the House of Representatives, better known as Republicans with a few Democrats added for interest, have decided that they will not raise the debt ceiling  unless the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) is defunded. They realized that just attaching the amendment to the stop gap funding bill to prevent the partial shutdown of the government on October 1 would never pass muster in the Senate. So they decided to go one better:

GOP leaders telegraphed that they would likely concede to the Senate’s demand for a stopgap spending bill shorn of the Obamacare provision but that they would carry on with the fight on legislation to increase the government’s borrowing cap.

“There should be no conversation about shutting the government down,” House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said. “That’s not the goal here.”

The debt-limit measure, required to allow the government to pay all of its bills on time, would be brought to the House floor as early as next week and would allow the Treasury to borrow freely for one year.

Republicans vow to load that bill with a GOP wish list, including another assault on the health care bill and a provision to force the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline from Canada to Texas Gulf Coast refineries, a project that environmentalists oppose and that the Obama administration so far has refused to approve. Other elements will reflect different Republican budget priorities, including as-yet-undisclosed savings from health care and government benefit programs and steps to speed work on an overhaul of the tax code.

If this sounds familiar,it should. We’ve been down this road in 2011 with the great debate ending in narrowly avoided default and led to the first ever downgrade of America’s credit rating.

At New Economic Perspectives, Joe Firestone, pointed out in his article President Barack Obama has stated that he would not negotiate on raising the debt ceiling but that he was willing to negotiate with the Republicans on the budget on matters including entitlements. He also highlights an exchange that took place on MSNBC’s “NOW with Alex Wagner,” including Alex Wagner, David Corn, Sam Stein and Ezra Klein:

  Sam Stein: . . . you can see the contours of a deal that would upset both parties but palatable. something like in exchange for changes to social security payments, cpi, chained cpi. you could get a reprieve from sequestration. something like that along the lines where both parties are like, well, we don’t really want to do it, but for the sake of making sure we pay our bills – that’s why the republicans keep going there. they know obama care defunding isn’t going to happen, but there are other hostages.

   Alex: why does president obama come to the table at all?

   Ezra: i think that’s the kind of deal they would come to the table on. they would consider that a deal over sequestration. i’m not sure if they would do that exact deal, but the two deals they won’t do are the ones the republicans want. they don’t want that sequestration deal. they want an obama care deal or a debt ceiling deal. they won’t come to the table on those. . .

So, Sam Stein thinks the zombie “chained CPI” lives again, and Ezra agrees, but also thinks that the Republicans will not agree to that unless they get the deals they want. So, once again, the right wing, through their intransigence, may save us from President Obama’s continuing insistence that seniors must suffer now, and future seniors must suffer as well, for the sake of an illusory long-term debt/insolvency problem that doesn’t really exist, and that he can dispel at any moment by minting a $60 T coin.

Meanwhile, the four Versailles “progressives” on this panel laugh at the stupidity of the Republicans who are marching to the doom of their party, while refusing to call attention to the fact that this “funding” crisis, and the previous ones since 2010 were and are all kabuki, since the President could and still can dispel the illusion of possible insolvency any time he chooses to use the power Congress has given him to mint that coin.

So pull up a chair for the latest installment of “The Congressional Game of Chicken.” I’m betting on Curtain 2 with another filibuster threat to make it a really fun and interesting game.

Mar 09 2013

The Sequester: Lies, Damned Lies, and Libel Against Critics on the Left

Lately there have been some rumors about me that I feel need to addressed. Because I have more class than some people spreading nonsense about me and others, I am not going to name names or link to them, but some of you will know what I am talking about. First off, in the comments of my last diary it was rightly brought up that the President did issue a veto threats against anyone who wants to get rid of any part of the sequester.

This veto threat applied to anyone in both parties which also included the plan from Republicans that wanted to give federal agencies more leeway in how the sequester was implemented so as to spare the defense cuts instead of equal foreign and domestic cuts across the board. It’s not surprising that no one else put anything forward with that veto threat.

Obama Threatens Veto on Bid to Avoid Automatic Cuts as Supercommittee Fails

President Obama said today he will veto any efforts to get rid of the automatic spending cuts that will be triggered by the supercommittee’s failure to reach a bipartisan solution to deficit reduction.

“There will be no easy off-ramps on this one. We need to keep the pressure up to compromise, not turn off the pressure,” the president said this evening. “The only way these spending cuts will not take place is if Congress gets back to work and agrees on a balanced plan to reduce the deficit by at least $1.2 trillion.”

Only those that enable the real life terror federal employees and their families will soon feel deny that this is a debacle created by the Executive and the Legislative working together for austerity. The direct quotes up above can only be ignored by those with an agenda and not one for working people. Get real.  

Jan 20 2012

Greek Default Appears Inevitable

On Wednesday it was reported that some greedy hedge funds are blocking the rescue of the Greek economy. The hedge funds which had bought up the distressed Greek bonds in hope of making a killing came up against the Greek agreement to reduce their debt in order to receive the next tranche of funds to stave off default:

{..} (F)ears have grown in recent weeks that the hedge funds that are blocking the deal – which have been identified as including Vega Asset Management, Och Ziff, York Capital, GreyLock Asset Management and Marathon Asset Management – do not consider the prospect of a disorderly default by Athens as a financial incentive to allow a voluntary writedown deal to proceed.

This is because these funds are believed to have purchased insurance policies on their holdings of Greek bonds, known as Credit Default Swaps (CDS). If Athens fails to pay its maturing debts in March, that would trigger large CDS payouts to these funds from the large financial firms that sold them the insurance.

There is a reason they are called hedge funds but this is more a game of “head I win, tales you lose.”

To ad insult to injury, when Greek Prime Minister Lucas Papademos told the hold out that he would ask Parliament to change the law and force them to take the interest rate cut, the greedy hedgers have come up with  plan to sue the Greek government in Human Rights Court forcing them to make good on the payment:

The novel approach would have the funds arguing in the European Court of Human Rights that Greece had violated bondholder rights, though that could be a multiyear project with no guarantee of a payoff. And it would not be likely to produce sympathy for these funds, which many blame for the lack of progress so far in the negotiations over restructuring Greece’s debts.

The tactic has emerged in conversations with lawyers and hedge funds as it became clear that Greece was considering passing legislation to force all private bondholders to take losses, while exempting the European Central Bank, which is the largest institutional holder of Greek bonds with 50 billion euros or so.

Legal experts suggest that the investors may have a case because if Greece changes the terms of its bonds so that investors receive less than they are owed, that could be viewed as a property rights violation – and in Europe, property rights are human rights.

As David Dayen at FDL News Desk points out this process could take years to litigate but he also found something significant buried in the New York Times article:

It is not just the legal cudgel that investors are threatening to use. Some hedge funds have discussed among themselves the possibility of demanding a side payment, as they describe it, as a price Europe and Greece must pay if the two want the funds to participate in the agreement.

Yes, David, I agree this is extortion..Give us the money or we blow up the world.

Jun 22 2011

Greece: Saving the Banks, Destroying A Country

What Atrios said:

The people who run the world agree that ordinary people need to suffer so that the banksters don’t lose on their bets.

The people who run the world are awful people.

Shitpile is an understatement.

BERLIN (AP) — German Chancellor Angela Merkel is warning that a full-scale restructuring of Greek debt would have “completely uncontrollable”consequences on the financial markets.

Merkel said Wednesday that imposing a so-called haircut on Greek debt – reducing the amount to be repaid – would not only endanger banks and other creditors who hold Greek bonds, but also institutions that sold insurance policies against a default.

Merkel told a parliamentary committee that those credit default swaps have a higher face value than the debt itself.

But protect those bankers they no matter that they’ve destroyed Greece’s economy by the skin of the average Greeks’ teeth

ATHENS – Prime Minister George Papandreou of Greece won a crucial vote of confidence early Wednesday, with all 155 lawmakers of the Socialist Party expressing their support for his beleaguered government, above the absolute majority of 151 votes required by Greece’s 300-seat Parliament. . . .

He defended the country’s foreign creditors, who have become a lightning rod for popular fury, saying, “They are giving us a helping hand in difficult times.”

But tens of thousands of people gathered outside Parliament, many voicing rage at foreign lenders, whom they see as a kind of occupying power, and at a government they blame for Greece’s financial crisis.

“They destroyed the country,” said Terpsichore Theofili, 23, a history student, as she stood in the crowd in Syntagma Square outside Parliament. “They should pay, not us,” she added.

David Dayen said it,

No, they’re saving their creditors.

In other words, a Greek default event would break the banks and the financial wizards who sold default insurance. This is all about protecting them, not the Greek people. . . .

Mohamed El-Erian of Pimco still thinks Greece will default. And maybe they will. Maybe the Parliament will succumb to the pressure of the street and refuse to institute more pain and suffering. Maybe this latest plan will just kick the can down the road, and default will be an inevitable future event. But Greece should have the power to set the terms here. It’s like the old joke: “If I lend you $100 and you don’t pay it back, you have a problem. If I lend you $1 trillion and you don’t pay it back, I have a problem.” Greece could hold that over their creditors, but so far their political leadership has been cowed.